BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — After years of late-night research, frustration, ridicule and even lawsuits, Mats Järlström of Beaverton could finally say, “I told you so.”
But he didn’t use those words after learning his research into whether yellow lights are too short for drivers making turns was validated at the highest level. Instead, Järlström expressed joy.
“I feel totally vindicated here,” Järlström told KOIN 6 while holding back tears after learning the news Thursday, which happened to be his birthday.
The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), which makes the traffic control policies for the United States and other countries, notified Järlström that he’s right: drivers often get caught in a no man’s land when trying to make a turn and they end up running red lights.
“The existing Kinematic Equation does not fully cover several dilemma-zone situations for left-turn and right-turn movements,” concluded members of an ITE panel considering Järlström’s research. “The Panel suggests that this item be properly reconsidered by ITE.”
“This is a tremendous amount of work I put into this and the impact this will have for everyone in the world, it’s going to be dramatic,” said Järlström. “The yellow lights are too short in the U.S.”
The Swedish-born electronics engineer embarked on his mission in 2013 after his wife got a ticket for running a red light in Beaverton. For six years he has been trying to prove that intersections with red-light cameras are rigged against the laws of nature and human drivers.
He took his research to the City of Beaverton where he received a chilly reception. He took his concerns to the Oregon Department of Transportation and other agencies without any luck. Most entities responded that they follow best practices determined by ITE.
Järlström forged ahead and got a big victory several years ago when Professor Alexei Maradudin — one of the engineers who wrote the original formula used to determine the duration of yellow lights — told ITE his 1959 equation was never meant to regulate vehicles making turns.
Still, Järlström faced fines from Oregon’s Board of Examiners for Engineering, which accused him of practicing engineering without a license for trying to share his research. After getting free legal help from The Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., he won a federal lawsuit allowing him to talk about his findings.
In this latest victory, Järlström received a satisfying congratulations. “Good news indeed! I am happy for you,” wrote Maradudin in an email. “It has been a long process, but science wins in the end.”
Järlström will now continue his work on a research paper to further explain his findings.
“I have a complete understanding today, I have to put on paper, starting next week. It will have a major impact because it’s not understood today,” Järlström said. ”We need to add some extra time, for tolerances for human behavior. We’re not perfect We need to be given more leeway, to allow people to stop and go.”
Members of the ITE Panel were not available for comment after hours.
KOIN 6 News will update this story.